It’s a pleasure to see the new film “Almost Nothing” by Ana Hušman at the Croatian Film Days Festival in Zagreb. We last spoke with Hušman a couple years ago about her previous films that dealt with socially constructed interactions, like her film “Lunch”, and scripted behavior as a key theme in her film “Postcards” (read the article here). Her films have a nostalgic glow to them, due to their 16mm color film format and often have quirky characters and scenarios. Her new film was a different direction for the artist. “Almost Nothing” is contemplative and quiet, focusing on changes in the environment of a Dalmatian island, void of any people, yet shows the affects of humans on the landscape.
The beginning of the film focuses on rental apartments on the island, with still shots of painstakingly simple and artificially crafted rooms. The camera is still, the room is bare, and a perfectly made bed sits untouched and lifeless. Hušman captures the symmetry of the man-made objects in mundane central shots of furniture that silently mirrors itself. These soulless rooms do have some evidence of life from the subtle effects of wind embracing a curtain, or the sound of the wind rustling leaves outside the window.
The wind plays an important role of connecting nature and Hušman’s philosophical ideas of landscape. She writes that, “the idea of landscape has nothing in common with the ideal of unspoiled nature”, meaning that landscapes have become formed and manipulated by “planned deforestation, afforestation, and controlled planting.” By recording the sounds of the wind bearing down heavily upon the plants, an intense sensation is created, as if the plants are fighting against the strong wind.
The plants become characters with their own narrative in the film. The different vegetation of the landscape is constantly changing and moving with the wind. For Hušman, the sound reveals the changes in the overall landscape of the island, which was affected by land management policies. Through the wind, these changes enter into apartments and homes. There is a constant exchange between the interior and exterior landscape of the island.
“Almost Nothing” is a reflection on the small details in nature which Hušman appreciates and illuminates. Part of the film is divided into segments of drawings of the vegetation, like a taxonomy record of the flora. These sections could be seen as a metaphor of the way the landscape is scientifically dissected and produced by people. By incorporating them, there is a coherent energy and meditation that runs through the calming, but striking film. Throughout the film, the wind slowly picks up speed and power. It continues to be the overall theme throughout the story, representing the artificial manufacturing that humans impose on the landscape.